Following last week’s wild finish against New York City FC in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Lions remained poised to continue advancing in the postseason.
On Sunday, in the Eastern Conference semifinal against an in-form New England Revolution, Orlando City’s historical playoff run came to an end.
Two goals from New England’s’ Gustavo Bou, a penalty from Carles Gil and having the player advantage following a second-half red card from Mauricio Pereyra, all compiled into the Revolution claiming the 3-1 victory over the Lions Sunday afternoon at Exploria Stadium.
“Obviously at this moment there’s a lot of pain, and there’s is a lot of frustration that we have been carrying the last 10 days with things that happened and couldn’t apparently flush them off,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja told reporters after the game. “We’re proud of them, I’m backing them up all the time because I know how hard they work for this objective. Now, we need to grow and certainly this will help us for sure.”
The win for the Revs advances them to the conference final against the winner of the Columbus Crew and Nashville match.
The Revolution took the lead first when Carles Gil converted a penalty kick past Brian Rowe in the 17th minute. Uri Rosell was called for a foul inside the box on Tajon Buchanan, leading to the penalty being called.
New England doubled the lead less than 10 minutes later in the 26th minute, following a turnover from Nani. Gil led a counter attack, finding Buchanan on an overlapping run to his right. The fullback sent a cross into striker Adam Buksa, who hit the ball off the post. Gustavo Bou would follow up the deflected ball and finish off the play to make it 2-0.
The Lions pulled one back after a failed clearance from New England. Chris Mueller received a cross field ball from Nani, after which he tried to cut in towards goal. The ball was taken from Mueller, fell to the hands of Matt Turner, but Mueller was able to poke it away and get the ball to a waiting Junior Urso, who slotted the ball into the net to reduce the deficit to 2-1 in the 33rd minute.
Goalkeeper Brian Rowe prevented a third Revolution goal in the 38th minute after stopping a long distance strike from Buksa.
Into the second half the teams went, with the scoreline holding at 2-1.
The Lions went down a player just 15 minutes into the second half, when Mauricio Pereyra was issued a straight red card for a studs-up challenge into Matt Polster‘s ankle in the 60th minute.
Orlando was given an opportunity to tie the match in the 73rd minute, when Daryl Dike was fouled inside the box, but Nani’s ensuing penalty kick was stopped by Matt Turner.
In the 86th minute, Bou secured his brace, making it 3-1 off a counter attack led by Adam Buksa and Carles Gil, ensuring Bruce Arena’s side the win over Orlando.
Regular starters Pedro Gallese and Ruan did not feature on Sunday because of suspension. Midfielder Sebastian Mendez, who’s currently under quarantine after possible COVID-19 exposure, was also not named to the game day lineup
Despite closing the 2020 season eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs, this year was arguably the club’s best season ever since entering MLS in 2015.
The Lions struggled to make the playoffs since their entrance into the league, but after three head coaches and consecutive disappointing seasons, Oscar Pareja and his staff, in their first season in charge, revitalized an Orlando side by making a run to the MLS is Back Tournament final, competing for the Supporters’ Shield and eventually clinching a spot in the playoffs for the very first time.
“People love us more when we win, and it’s natural,” said Pareja. “But I know people have recognized what they have done. That at this moment, we need to give us time to see how can we take the best out of these games that happened and how we can grow as a club and players, but they have more 100% behind them. I can’t be prouder with them, it’s honor for me to coach them.”
17′ – Carles Gil, penalty (NE)
26′ – Gustavo Bou (NE)
33′ – Junior Urso (ORL)
86′ – Gustavo Bou, assisted by Carles Gil & Adam Buksa (NE)
How the Lions lined up
Starting XI: Brian Rowe; Kamal Miller, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith (Benji Michel, 78′); Oriol Rosell (Andres Perea, 66′), Junior Urso (Robinho, 88′), Chris Mueller (Tesho Akindele, 78′), Mauricio Pereyra, Nani (c); Daryl Dike.
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar, Alex De John, Rodrigo Schlegel, Alexander Alvarado, Joey DeZart.
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